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Kennedy takes 29 seconds to open, close Senate

  • Story Highlights
  • Sen. Edward Kennedy is latest Democrat to preside over "pro forma" session
  • Kennedy was only senator in the the chamber
  • Move prevents president from making recess appointments to government posts
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy took 29 seconds Monday to open and close the Senate, the latest move in a standoff with President Bush over recess appointments.

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Senate Democrats are holding a series of "pro forma" sessions to stop recess appointments by President Bush.

Kennedy was the only senator in the chamber when he gaveled the session open shortly after 9 a.m. ET. Four women from the anti-war group Code Pink also were on hand.

After a clerk read a statement from Senate Pro Tempore Robert Byrd saying Kennedy would perform the duties, the Massachusetts Democrat immediately gaveled the session closed, saying the next one would occur Wednesday.

Senators are starting to trickle back to Washington from the holiday break.

Monday's event is one of a series of "pro forma" -- "for the sake of formality" -- sessions in a political scuffle between the White House and the Democratic-led Congress.

Democrats are keeping the Senate in session to block Bush from making any recess appointments. During congressional recesses, a constitutional mechanism allows the president to fill top government posts for up to one year without Senate confirmation.

Only one senator is needed to keep the Senate open.

Kennedy presided over was one of the longer sessions during the holidays. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, presided over one lasting 12 seconds on the final day of 2007.

During Christmas week, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, opened and gaveled the Senate to a close in 11 seconds. Webb spent 57 seconds in the chamber.

Other Democrats -- including Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Chuck Schumer of New York -- will share the duty of presiding over the sessions this month.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced last month he would keep the Senate open with the "pro forma" sessions through mid-January.

Talks broke down with the White House on a deal that would have allowed the president to make dozens of appointments if he agreed not to name Steven Bradbury as the permanent head of the Justice Department's influential Office of Legal Counsel.

Bush declined to accept the Democrats' offer, and Reid refused to approve Bradbury because of concerns about his involvement in crafting legal opinions for the administration on interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects.

Similar sessions were conducted over the Thanksgiving recess. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Lesa Jansen and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

All About George W. BushEdward M. KennedyU.S. Senate

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